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Craig Johnson

Any Other Name

Craig Johnson Any Other Name A Longmire Mystery
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Series:

A Longmire Mystery

Biographical note:

Craig Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population 25.

Excerpt from book:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
 
Copyright © 2014 by Craig Johnson

1

 

Joseph Conrad said that if you wanted to know the age of the earth, look upon the sea in a storm; if you want to know the age of the Powder River country just be on the wrong side of a coal train. A guy who worked for the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe once told me that the trains in northern Wyoming are about a hundred and forty cars and a mile and a half long, but it sure seems longer than that when you’re waiting on one. .

Lucian Connally, my old boss and the retired sheriff of Absaroka County, reached into his pocket and pulled out his beaded tobacco pouch the Cheyenne elders had given him along with the name Nedon Nes Stigo—He Who Sheds His Leg. “Damn, this is a long one.” He also pulled his briarwood pipe from the inside coat pocket of his light jacket, much too light for the weather, and fingered a small packet of wooden matches along with it. “We used to get calls from the railroad detectives, what a useless bunch, wanting us to come down and identify the hobos that climbed in the hoppers back in Chicago and Milwaukee, and with the slick sides on the railcar walls, they couldn’t get out. . . .” He stuffed a small amount of the tobacco into the bowl of his pipe. “They’d pull those cars into the mines and dump tons of coal onto ’em—imagine their surprise.”

“Homeless.”

He turned to look at me. “What?”

“Homeless; they don’t call them hobos anymore.”

He nodded his head and looked back at the train. “Flat as a damn pancake is what I called ’em.”

I watched the cars roll and felt the ground shake. The single largest source of coal in the United States, the Powder River Basin contains one of the largest deposits in the world and has made Wyoming the top coal-producing state since the late eighties.

He pulled a match from the pack and made ready to strike. “Pulverized pepper steak; wasn’t a lot to identify, I can tell ya that much.”

The major cities of the Wyoming portion of the basin are Gillette and Sheridan; in Montana, Miles City. The rest of the twenty-four thousand square miles is what they call sparsely populated and I called Durant and home.

It was a Saturday.

“Flat as a flitter.”

I was tired.

“Identify my ass.”

And I was about to lose my patience.

“Looked like hamburger.”

I scrubbed a hand across my face.. “Old man, you’re not going to light that pipe in my truck.”

He looked over at me for a moment, the silence between us carrying the electric charge of decades, grunted, and then pulled the door handle and climbed out of the Bullet. The clanging of the warning bells amplified through the open door before he slammed it behind him and hobbled on his one real and one fake leg to the corner of my grill guard, at which point he recommenced lighting his pipe with a great deal of dramatic flourish.

It was December on the high plains, but you’d never know it to look at him, cupping his knotted hands together without a shiver or gloves for that matter and ducking his Stetson Open Road model hat down against the wind. Amplified by the flashing red lights of the railroad-crossing barrier, the brief flicker of orange light glowed, reinforcing the impression that he was the devil and that the deal I had struck with him was venal and binding.

He raised his head, the consistent wind that battled

Praise for A Serpent’s Tooth:
 
“Suspense propels the brisk plot, complemented by a sly sense of humor and a breathtaking look at Wyoming.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred)

"Authentic....The story moves at a brisk pace, with room for some good-natured humor and plenty of gorgeous Wyoming scenery."—CNN.com

"A tense, action-filled story with Johnson's usual touches of humor and romance."—Kirkus

"Maybe [Johnson's] best one yet."—Charleston Gazette

"Johnson employs his trademark humor, many literary allusions, a cast readers can't help but love and Johnson's obvious love of the land he's writing about. Readers will experience the West in all its grandeur while Walt battles the evils trying to encroach upon his beloved county."—Shelf Awareness

 


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